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Cover of 
catalogue for
Thinking Print,
MOMA, 1996

Kiki Smith
Tattoo Print
All images from
Thinking Print,

Brice Marden
 Zen Study 3 
(Early State), 

John Baldessari
Roller Coaster

Alison Saar
Ulysses, 1994

Kathrina Fritsch
Madonna, 1982 

Grenville Davey,
Pair A, 1993

Cover of
On Paper 

Jasper Johns
False Start I, 1962

queen of prints 
by Deborah Ripley-Solway

"The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen!" 
should have been the subtitle of the 
blockbuster print show, "Thinking Print: 
Books to Billboards, 1980-95," which just 
closed at the Museum of Modern Art after a 
pleasant summer run (June 10-Sept. 10, 
1996). Whatever else one might say about 
the exhibition--and there's lots to say, 
it was a fantastic show--it marked the end of 
the curatorial regime of Riva Castleman, 
who held MOMA's print department in what 
could be called a firm grip until she 
retired last year.
Following her appointment to the post in 
1971, the pioneering Castleman organized 
some of the first major print shows by Pop 
and Minimalist artists. She guarded her 
fledgling print department with a ferocity 
matched only by her determination to 
succeed in a male-dominated museum world. 
Over the years she brought prestige and 
power to the department, and lavished shows 
and catalogues on her cronies from the `60s 
and `70s. 
But during the `80s, the print world became 
increasingly disappointed with Castleman's 
selection of artists and publishers. 
Legions of lesser-known artists and 
printmakers, many of them women and ethnic 
minorities, were ignored. Rather than 
leading in contemporary print acquisitions, 
MOMA was falling embarrassingly behind. But 
due to Castleman's political clout within 
the institution--she had become deputy 
director for curatorial affairs--she was 
During this entire period, associate 
curator Deborah Wye toiled silently, biding 
her time, and trying, with assistant 
curator Wendy Weitman, to facilitate the 
acquisition of prints by younger artists. 
In 1988, Wye produced a surprising show 
entitled "Committed to Print," which 
documented social and political prints and 
included many artists that had never been 
seen before. Many thought this show 
signaled a shift in curatorial focus at 
But it was a Pyrrhic victory. Wye would 
wait almost ten years to mount another 
major exhibition of contemporary prints. 
Even after Castleman's retirement in 1995, 
Wye was not considered the heir apparent. A 
search committee was formed and suitable 
candidates were sought. On the eve of her 
exhibition, Wye was informed that she was 
the new chief curator of prints and 
illustrated books.
"Thinking Print: Books to Billboards, 1980-
95" was a survey of the 235 prints that Wye 
had waited until Castleman's retirement to 
show. It was her exuberant coming-out 
party, organized by print technique, theme 
and format, starting with "New 
Jenny Holzer's Inflammatory Essays, 
unceremoniously wallpapering the space 
above the escalators, announced that this 
would be an entirely different kind of 
print show. On the landing, an enormous 
screenprinted billboard by Barbara Kruger 
was Wye's rebel yell. And print purists 
probably felt faint when they noticed the 
stack of photolithographs of gun-shot 
victims by the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres--
on the floor. (And they probably called 
security when they saw visitors helping 
themselves freely to the stack.) A final 
blow to the ancient regime was Kiki Smith's 
Tattoo Print from 1995, a sheet of tattoo 
transfers that includes images of female 
genitalia, butterflies and flowers.
The woodcut & linoleum-cut room had a 
brash, rough feel about it, in keeping with 
prints by `80s Neo-Expressionists such as 
Robert Bosman, Louisa Chase, Alison Saar and
the late Martin Disler (who died in August at
age 49 of a heart attack). The gallery dedicated 
to intaglio was very handsome and 
restrained. Brice Marden's Zen Study 3 
(Early State), from the "Cold Mountain" 
series, 1990, published by Matthew Marks, 
was exquisite. It was well complimented by 
a drypoint by Carroll Dunham. 
Willie's Cole's Domestic, 1992, which 
documents the scorch marks of different 
irons, was one of the most unusual works 
from the "Format: Multipart Project" room. 
There was a small selection of multiples in 
the "Format: Multiples" section. Worth 
remembering were the Katharina Fritsch's 
urine-colored  Madonna, 1982, small statues 
that are suggestive of Andres Serrano's 
Piss Christ.
In the gallery dedicated to "Language," 
many of the great pieces from the late `80s 
and early `90s were on view. Artists 
Christopher Wool, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., 
Matt Mullican and Allen Ruppersberg still 
look strong. In the "Theme: Photography & 
Printmaking" gallery, Wye shows numerous 
prints by John Baldessari. Photogravures 
from Hegel's Cellar, 1986 (seen this summer 
at Marlborough in an excellent photogravure 
show curated by former Crown Pointer Kim 
Schmidt), are just as mysterious and 
powerful. Christian Boltanski's portfolio, 
Gymnasium Chases, published in 1991 by 
Crown Point Press, is still magnificent. 
In the "Theme: Social and Political Issue" 
gallery, Wye introduced the artists and 
prints she showed in "Committed to Print." 
Finally in the "Theme: The Body" room, Wye 
debuted many new publishers, including 
Charles Booth-Clibborn of Paragon Press in 
London, who was represented by Grenville 
Davey's screenprint of a computer-
manipulated eyeball.
In Wye's catalogue preface, MOMA director 
Glenn D. Lowry acknowledged the museum's 
mandate to document and interpret the works 
it already owns. It took Deborah Wye to 
finally pull these prints out from their 
hiding places, exhibit them in a meaningful 
manner and contribute thoughtful new 
scholarship. Printmaking is clearly 
experiencing another renaissance. Long Live 
the Queen! 
Print aficionados should run not walk to 
the newsstand for the premier issue of  On 
Paper, formerly Print Collectors' 
Newsletter. Under new ownership, this 
prestigious scholarly journal has an 
updated look, and will attempt to reach a 
wider, less hermetic audience. The 
September-October issue is 52 pages, and 
covers drawings and photography as well. 
Subscription price is the same--$60--but 
"may go up," warns new editor Faye Hirsch. 
Print connoisseurs may find the title 
worrisome--prints are "on chine," "on 
Japan," "on Arches," "on BFK Rives," even 
"on metallic Rowlux" but never "on paper!"
This November will be very busy for print 
lovers. David Whitney, architect Philip 
Johnson's companion and art advisor, is 
auctioning off 55 prints by friend Jasper 
Johns at Christie's New York on Nov. 7 
(viewing Nov. 2-6). A very comprehensive 
and thorough collection, many of the 
prints, such as 2 Maps 2, are rarely seen 
at auction. Dealers are questioning the 
wisdom of saturating the market with so 
many Johns prints in an improving but still 
fragile print market. Others claim that the 
timing is perfect--the Johns retrospective 
opens at MOMA on Oct. 20. 
To complement his show, curator Kirk 
Varnedoe asked the print department to 
mount a show of Johns's working proofs. 
Associate curator and noted Johns scholar 
Wendy Weitman organized
"Jasper Johns: Process and Printmaking" 
that opens Oct. 17. 
Johns gave Weitman unlimited access to his 
personal print archive. She selected 25 
finished images and the series of 235 
proofs leading up to them. Spanning his 
entire career as a printmaker, the early 
proofs are often embellished with chalk, 
crayon and ink. This will be a unique 
opportunity to see Johns's printmaking 
process. Unlike his original works where 
changes can be painted over or erased, the 
proofs document every addition and 
subtraction--they are literally "set in 
stone." The differences from the final 
editions are often dramatic. Although Good 
Time Charley II, 1971, is, like many of his 
prints from that period, in somber tones of 
black and gray--and emotionally withdrawn, 
an earlier working proof is vibrantly 
colored. This is the first time this many 
proofs have ever been shown. Perhaps to 
acknowledge the crowning retrospective of 
his career, this artist, known for the 
rigor and supreme control of his 
printmaking, seems ready to reveal these 
more private aspects of his creativity--
Johns "off the record."
Directly after the Johns sale at 
Christie's, be sure to stroll over the Park 
Avenue Armory for the opening of the 
International Print Dealer's Association 
Fair at the Park Avenue Armory on Nov. 7. 
The fair will run Nov. 8-10, and is the 
preeminent international print event of the 
Deborah Ripley-Solway is a private dealer 
of prints and multiples and lives in